Happy Birthday Callan Foote. The young defenseman turned 22 on Sunday and his present from Raw Charge is a Top 5 ranking! It’s the best gift a player can receive, right? OK, maybe not, but it’s all we can really afford these days. Anyway, back to Mr. Foote and his ranking. The 2017 first round pick actually dropped a spot from his ranking last year, but that doesn’t mean he had a bad season for the Syracuse Crunch. In fact, he had a pretty good one.
In his second full season in professional hockey, the right-side defenseman came close to matching the point totals he put up in his rookie year (fewer goals, but more assists) while seeing more time against the top opposition. With call-ups and injuries Foote saw a lot more time as a top-four defenseman for the Crunch and more than held his own.
The development he showed last season has excited some in the fan base who think that he might be ready for the NHL as early as this season. Chances are he will see time with the Tampa Bay Lightning at some point in the next couple of months, but depending on the moves they make to become cap compliant, he may start the season with the Crunch. That would probably be best for him as opposed to throwing him to the wolves as a young 22-year-old in the NHL.
He does play on the right side of the ice, a position that is looking pretty thin in Tampa even if/when Erik Cernak signs his new contract. So Foote has a fighting chance to make the roster with a strong training camp next month. One thing he gives the Lightning that some of his competition like Jan Rutta or Luke Schenn doesn’t is offense. It’s not explosive offensive like Victor Hedman or John Carlson, but it’s more than Schenn or Rutta can provide.
Foote is a solid prospect in just about every aspect of the game. He is a smart player with the puck, extremely calm in tough situations, can provide a little offense and is able to start the breakout with well-directed passes. One thing he is still working on is his skating. While it has improved during his time in Syracuse, it is still at the level that could cause him problems with elite NHL opponents.
It’s something that he acknowledged following the pre-playoff training camp last summer as he told The Athletic:
“The biggest thing for me is improving my skating, quick feet, and that’s come a long way. It’s been a good year for me to get more physical, closing guys out.
His increased physical play was noticeable last season for the Crunch as he went from .38 hits per game to .82. He has the size (6’4”, 220 lbs.) to be a physical defenseman, but doesn’t go about it in a reckless manner, blindly throwing out hits just because he can. One of the things that stands out in his game is his positioning. He is usually in the right spot at the right time most of the time and is able to break up plays with his stick.
Foote won’t make too many mistakes in his own zone as he doesn’t seem to get rattled too easy, even under pressure. He has the uncanny ability to make the small little pass or move to shake forecheckers behind the net without turning the puck over.
His shot isn’t overwhelming but it is fairly accurate from the blueline. He manages to get about 43% of his shots on net which isn’t horrible since he usually unloads from distance. For a defenseman his wrist shot has a pretty quick release and he loves to let it go from the slot.
There is a tendency on his part to hesitate in jumping up on the play, preferring the safe play of staying back. However, it seemed as he became more comfortable in the AHL he became better at picking his spots to attack.
Such as this goal against Springfield in February:
It seems like it takes him a little while to get comfortable on the ice. Early in the season his play seemed a little tentative, almost like he’s trying to avoid mistakes as opposed to driving play. As the season progresses he seems to find his groove and he lets his natural talent take over. Instead of thinking about the play, he starts to react naturally.
He’s never going to put up Erik Karlsson-esque offensive numbers in the NHL, but he can be a steady 25-40 point producer. Running a power play is well within his skillset and something he will probably due if he does finds himself on the Crunch at the beginning of the season.
Cal Foote has the make-up to be a long-time NHL defenseman and there is a good chance that career begins in the next couple of months.
The Writers were pretty consistent with their ranking of Foote with the majority of the staff ranking him fourth or fifth on the list. Based on who the top three are that’s not a big surprise. The Readers were a little more spread out, but mostly agreed that he was a top 10 prospect in the system (except for the one lone person who had him 24th. I like to think that his brother logged in and ranked him that low just for fun. If so, how are you doing Nolan? Miss you!)
Stats provided by EliteProspects and InStat Hockey